As a physician, I see the effects of drug addiction and abuse on pretty much a daily basis. There is hardly a day goes by that I don’t have at least one person either come in to the clinic or call my nurse demanding I write a prescription for their favorite controlled substance. I typically politely decline.
The problem is certainly not confined to prescription medications either. Currently the big problem in this neck of the woods seems to be related to methamphetamine, though crack coccaine is pretty big around here too. None of this is meant to ignore other substances.
After a while, you sort of get a sixth sense about these folks and can usually spot them pretty easily. A lot of times, I can spot them before I even see them, simply from what is written in the chart, what their presenting complaint is and how it is worded.
The E.R. docs have an even greater exposure to this stuff than I do as a family medicine doc.
It doesn’t take long for most folks in the medical profession to become somewhat cynical towards these patients. Hang out with some doctors or nurses long enough and you’re almost certain to hear them complain about their latest drug-seeker, or that disruptive crack-head they saw the other day, etc.
I’m not immune to this either. The fact of the matter is that a lot of these patients genuinely are a disruptive pain-in-the-asses. They usually take up an inordinate amount of time trying to convince you to do something you’ve already told them you won’t. They are often quite rude, and often use foul, abusive, and occassionally threatening language.
It’s not hard to lose sight of the fact that in spite of all this, they are still people. Most of them have family who love them and are worried about them. Most of them have dreams and aspirations. Most of them did not spend their early childhood dreaming of someday being an addict.
I’m not some touchy-feely left-wing pansy trying to make excuses for them or condone their behavior. What they are doing is wrong. They need to stop. They need help. Unfortunately, they are not usually too interested in receiving any help. They usually just want that next hook-up.
What got me going on this subject today was something I read from a member of another internet forum I sometimes visit. The guy posting this put a different light on the addict than what we usually see.
His is a story that I felt should be shared. I asked his permission to post it here and he kindly gave it.
“ Truthfully, I do have some sympathy towards addicts. my only experience with a crackhead/crackwhore.. My ex-wife’s younger sister, she was 16 or 17 at the time, and my ex wasn’t my ex yet.
Sis was dating a slightly older guy, seemed pretty nice. Parents were parents, they weren’t pleased that she was dating, but that’s what having a daughter is all about. When they met him, he said all the right things.
A little dating, a little experimentation with drugs (pot, ecstasy) apparently resulted in her to going to a party with him and people that she didn’t know. He got her high, and then gave a her a little crack. Over the next few weeks, he gave her a little more and a little more. just led her down the trail to addiction. all free, nobody suspected a thing.
She got hooked, then he wanted her to pay for her habit. She emptied her piggy bank, she emptied her bank account, not enough. Small things disappeared around the in-laws house. They didn’t notice.
They noticed her change in behavior, she was irritable (okay, more irritable), she was defensive, she wasn’t home. They didn’t know yet that she quit her job. Joe Blow kept giving her crack (discounted prices). She was hooked.
She stole more, she gave away her car, parents reacted wrongly (tried to confine her to house, gated community), and then they kicked her out. Instantly regretted that, but then they couldn’t find her to bring her back and get her proper help. They didn’t yet realize what was going on, just attributed it to her going through some rebellious stage.
She had no more money, she had no access to money. Joe Blow became her pusher and her pimp. all of this in less than a month.
Parents found her, brought her home, tried to get her help. a week or two later, she emptied mom’s very expensive jewelry case (after breaking into a locked room) and disappeared again.
Two weeks later they found her again, , in this short period of time she went from a beautiful young woman to an emaciated, much older looking, worn-out person.
This time, they put her in a program, in a home.
I was there to see their anguish throughout the entire ordeal. I helped them search the streets, try to keep her company when she was home, visit her in the rehab center. She did manage to overcome her addiction, but afterwards she was devestated.
She knew what she had done, the whole family needed counselling (but they didn’t get it, which was surprising to me). The last that I heard from her, she had her life back under control and was going to college. But she was scared about how she’d react in new situations with less help. She did join NA and hopefully everything has gone well for her since.
So, I can feel sympathy for addicts. Sis and her family had everything, loving, close-knit family, very secure financially, and this still happened, and was hard as hell to reverse..”